11/04/08 — Town board OKs water line plan, land purchase

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Town board OKs water line plan, land purchase

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 4, 2008 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A water line, sponsoring an application for a Homeland Security grant and purchase of property, all involving the town and Mount Olive College, were approved by commissioners Monday night.

Commissioners approved working with the college to obtain funding for an estimated $100,000 project to install a 12-inch water line from West Main Street near U.S. 117 north to near Henderson Street on the college campus.

The town will seek grants to pay for the work. Should that effort fail, the cost will be split between the college and the town.

The line would supply water for new student housing that is to be built at the college. Running lines from that 12-inch line to the student housing would be the responsibility of the college.

The board gave conditional approval to the purchase of a piece of college property located next to the Mount Olive Housing Authority office on West Main Street.

The purchase price is $25,000.

Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. said the college had agreed to two payments, but that he might be able to convince college officials to agree to spread the cost over three payments.

The purchase hinges on the outcome of negotiations between the county and college over the old Peebles store building across the street from the lot.

Brown said the property is more attractive to the town should the county reach an agreement with the college on the Peebles building. He said it is still possible the town might be interested in the property even if no deal is reached on the store.

Efforts are under way to purchase the building and then to renovate it to be the new home of the town's Steele Memorial Library.

The board discussed the land purchase during a closed session prior to the vote.

As for the grant, for the past year the town has worked with Communities in Crisis to develop a community disaster resilience project. Locally, Dr. Chris Dyer, dean of arts and sciences at Mount Olive College, is the organization's board chairman and grant writer, and has been working with the town.

Brown said Dyer had said there is an opportunity to apply for a $465,000 Homeland Security grant to further those efforts in establishing the pilot program.

What is needed of the town is to be the grant sponsor.

"Our official title would be grant manager," Brown said. "That would be Dyer and myself. It would not involve a lot on the town's part, and I made it perfectly clear there could not be any matching funds."

Brown said Dyer and Communities in Crisis have been a "huge help" for the town.

"We are grateful for this," Dyer said after the board approved the request.

Dyer said that while the plan had been going forward there had been a lack of consistency working on the project because of his other commitments.

However, he said he has committed to work pro bono every Wednesday from 9-11 a.m. at town hall. That, he said, would allow him to be able to address "other things that could come out related to this that might warrant attention, such as other grants."

The pilot project is designed to create a program to help small towns be better prepared to deal with disasters.

Communities in Crisis is based in Clayton and has worked with Mount Olive College to develop plans for small towns struck by floods, tornadoes, chemical spills or other sudden crises.

Mount Olive's involvement began just over a year ago, when Brown and then Mayor Ruff Huggins were approached by Dyer and Deborah Dunn, one of the founders of Community in Crisis.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina provided the organization's first major grant funding.

The program is not designed to replace the National Guard or Red Cross or any other relief agencies that provides disaster relief.

Rather its goal is to try to set up a program to prepare citizens of small towns -- most under 10,000 in population -- to be more self-sufficient should they be forced to deal with a crisis.

Also, it is not intended to supplant any county emergency program already in place, organizers say.

The planning process includes an assessment of resources the town could draw upon and to identify the at-risk portions of a population -- people who because of age, health, economics or language might have a more difficult time dealing with a disaster.

The goal would be to provide them with the information and tools to help them be more self-sufficient and to be in position to help others.

The town's first step was the preparation of letters for everyone in the community who is 65 and older about a voluntary sign-up program. The senior citizens would be included in a town database identifying residents who have health issues, or would need special assistance if an evacuation was ordered.